Across the world and especially in India too much of the curricula in 21st-century schools are still focused on equipping students for life in the last century, rather than preparing them to face the challenges of the present and the future. The Indian population is young. Approximately 30.8 percent of India's 1.1 billion people are under fourteen years of age. By 2020, India will have one of the youngest populations in the world. This vast resource will shape the nation and the world. Its primary values, aspirations, knowledge, abilities, skills, and dilemmas will have their bearing on their choices and indeed on the world that they inherit.
New World Literacies
Preparing our young population with the necessary literacies, skills, and attitudes, is a challenge. Our young are likely to take up as many as seven different careers in one lifetime, quite in contrast to the times when we grew up. We can only hope to educate them if we are able to engage them, allow them to explore and expand the circles of understanding. The changing environment compels us to innovate. In the new global economy, the jobs that exist now might not exist by the time our students enter the workplace. Along with a new range of skills, comes the need for a new range of literacies, areas in which we need to be able to both comprehend and express ourselves fluently.
Perhaps the most obvious is 'information literacy' as information becomes both increasingly abundant and contested, the ability to find and evaluate, as well as to express it in a variety of ways, is becoming even more important. Technological evaluation systems, touch screen paper corrections, classroom transactions through digital books and smart boards are slowly becoming a reality. In the next ten years, hand-held mobile phones will help students to learn where there are no teachers. Hence, their ability to access information will engender the need to assimilate and organize data into relevant and comprehensive structures.
If we do not empower our young with strength from within, they will find other spaces to seek ways of expressing their concerns.
Additionally, cultural literacy or cross-cultural competency is the ability to move across cultures seamlessly with an understanding of diversity is an integral part of 21st-century learning. Also, Ecological literacy is essential to negate the assumption that the availability of natural resources is limited only by our capacity to obtain them, and that any negative impact that humans have on the wider ecosystem will be negligible. Our understanding of the ecosystem is severely limited, as we are incapable of seeing ourselves as part of a complex, interconnected, and interdependent world within which our actions have unpredictable consequences across the globe.
A Learning Classroom
Irrespective of whether we are dealing with Government or Private learning institutions, education per say is a process of self-articulation. With globalization, a dilution of boundaries has taken place, creating both interdependence and insecurity. In fenceless societies, all of us, strong and weak, majority and minority, rich and poor, feel equally threatened by the 'other'. In order to avoid distances between communities and people's, our learning systems need to emphasize partnerships and alliances, move from self-centered existence to co-existence; from confrontation to interaction and from alienation to collaboration.
To achieve meaningful education, we must enable our children to live together in mutual empowerment. If we can create a common humanity in our school communities, it will go a long way in generating collaborative careers which are the need of the hour. Many issues faced by schools today are essentially about the skills and sensibilities, the attitudes and qualities that lie within the children that they nurture. This can either lead to competitiveness and exploitation or to a more sustainable and humane future.
Classrooms have become challenging spaces where students come together from varying social, cultural and economic backgrounds, often physically and mentally challenged with a baggage of divorced or single parents, sexual abuse, victims of domestic violence and a plethora of behavioral issues as a result of a violent society. As educators, we have to give greater attention to the happiness and health of our children. If we do not empower our young with strength from within, they will find other spaces to seek ways of expressing their concerns. We make decisions every day, which may have tremendous moral implications for the students in our care. Teaching, after all, is not just a set of technical skills for imparting knowledge to students involves caring for children and being responsible for their development in a complex society.
We must make time to look inward: to become aware of, the tacit realities that we take for granted, the ways we create knowledge and make meaning in our lives, and the aspirations and expectations that govern what we choose from life. We must also look outward: exploring new ideas and different ways of thinking and interacting, connecting to multiple processes and relationships outside ourselves, and clarifying our shared vision with our students. A shared vision is a very powerful idea that connects a collective learning consciousness.
Ameeta Mulla Wattal, Principal
Principal at Springdales School, Ameeta Mulla Wattal has worked in the sphere of education for over three decades. She is a recipient of the prestigious National Teachers Award 2005 from the President of India, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam on Teachers' day and the Endeavour Award 2009 - 10, from the Australian government for her work in the area of Asia Literacy along with innumerable awards nationally and internationally.